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Court gives Delhi Police two-day custody of Zee editors

New Delhi: A Delhi court today dismissed the bail plea of two senior journalists of Zee News channel and remanded them to two-day police custody on a complaint by Congress MP Naveen Jindal's group that they tried to extort Rs.100 crore for not broadcasting news reports on coal scam linking his firm.

Police told the court that Subhash Chandra, chairman of Zee News, and Punit Goenka, MD of the channel, are also accused in the case.

It said Chandra was complicit in the demand of money.

Naveen Jindal. Image courtesy PIB

Metropolitan Magistrate Gomati Manocha remanded Sudhir Chaudhary, the head of Zee News, and Samir Ahluwalia, head of Zee Business, to police custody till 30 November.

The police had sought three days custody of both the accused with Additional Public Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan arguing that their sustained interrogation was necessary to unearth the conspiracy in the case.

The police also said the two editors are accused of demanding Rs 100 crore from Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) in the form of advertisments to the channel.

JSPL is among the companies named in the CAG report as one of the beneficiaries of the controversial coal block allocations.

Police told the court that Subhash Chandra, Chairman of Zee News, and Punit Goenka, MD of the channel, are also accused in the case.

It said Chandra was complicit in the demand of money.

Both the journalists have been booked under section 384 (extortion), 420 (cheating), 120 B (criminal conspiracy) and 511 (punishment for attempting to commit offences punishable with imprisonment for life or other imprisonment) of the IPC.

Earlier during arguments, Public Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan said Chaudhary and Ahluwalia are required to be interrogated to unearth the involvement of Chandra and Goenka in the case.

He said the police need to find out the source from which the CAG report, which is the subject matter of dispute between the news channel and the Jindal Group, was obtained.

The prosecutor said the probe agency has evidence in the form of video and audio recordings of the two accused while demanding the money.

He said three officials of Jindal Group -- Ravi Mutreja, head of corporate communication of Jindal Group, Sushil Kumar, director in Jindal Group, and Vivek Mittal, senior DGM, were approached by the two editors of the Zee News offering not to broadcast the news reports regarding the alleged involvement of the JSPL in the allocation of coal block scam.

He said the channel had demanded the money in the form of advertisements for a period of five years.

"We need their sustained custodial interrogation to unearth the conspiracy and to know the source who had cooked up this idea of alleged extortion of money from the Jindal Group as it is not a single person decision.

"This money was for the whole (Zee) Group so many others are involved behind the conspiracy," he said while accusing Chandra of being complicit in the whole episode.

He said the stories aired on their channel regarding the alleged involvement of Jindal Group in coal blocks allocation scam were "concocted" and the probe in the case was on.

Mohan submitted that while striking the deal, the two accused had contacted Chandra which reflects his alleged involvement in the case.

PTI